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Why I became a coach

A combination of desperation and chance led me to working with a coach. It was a public holiday long weekend and I had once again decided that I didn’t deserve a break. For the past thirteen days I had spent my days and nights in a hunched position, squinting despairingly into the blindingly bright abyss of my laptop screen.

I was too tired to think straight, too stressed to get any sleep and filled with too much self-loathing to cut myself some slack. Instead of writing a couple of simple paragraphs introducing the third chapter of my book, I was ruminating over how hopeless and pointless it all was. Not just work, everything. I felt paralysed, and in a way, I was.

I couldn’t seem to make any progress on project A because of how stressed and overwhelmed I was feeling about projects B, C, D, E, F & G. And because I had made such little progress toward the unrealistic deadlines I had set myself, I did not deserve to spend this long weekend camping with friends.

So here I was, on the fourteenth day of my self-inflicted torture bender, hoisting the front tyre of my bike to hang on the butcher’s hook bolted to the the exposed red brick of a co-working space in Collingwood. I was pleased to see that the office was completely empty. I would be free to wallow in self-pity, groaning and moaning, without feeling self-conscious from the sideways glances I had been getting with increasing regularity.

However, a few moments later a woman entered the building and asked me if I had a bike pump for her flat tyre. I said “yes”, she asked me “what do you do?”, I said “that’s a good question, what do you do?” and she said “I’m a coach”.

After a month of “umming” and “ahhing”, I committed to working with this coach. We worked together for six months and the experience was nothing short of transformational. She helped me to connect with myself, untangle the knots in my mind and gain clarity on who I am, what I want to do, and how I’m gonna do it.

In the years since, I have worked with a number of coaches and continue to benefit from coaching today. It has helped me traverse some confusing and challenging times and has been the catalyst for significant positive change in my career and in life.

I returned home to Mparntwe (Alice Springs), where I grew up and where my Mum still lives. This place now represents a lot more to me than the little town in the middle of nowhere that I was lucky enough to escape from when I was 16.

I put my health and wellbeing ahead of my career. I identified and accepted that my work was deteriorating my mental health. I worked through the fear of losing financial security and eventually found the courage to take extended leave and appoint a trusted teammate as the interim CEO.

I made a career transition. After my mental health sabbatical I started working in the social enterprise development space. I realised that the company we had built was mostly helping people in positions of privilege to get further ahead. Whilst I’m proud of the service we provided these entrepreneurs, I knew that part of the reason I was battling burnout was because my company’s mission didn’t align closely enough with my core values.

I learned more about my story. I found the courage to explore my adoption and ask the scary questions I had never dared to ask. These brave questions have led to me meeting my Greek biological grandfather, who up until recently, I never knew existed. I also located and met with my African-American biological father. I am now learning that I have another brother and a big extended family who I hope to meet someday too.

I know how to look after myself. When I feel down or anxious I treat myself with care and compassion rather than with frustration and self-loathing. I have developed skills and techniques to better regulate my mental state. I call this my toolbox, which is ever-evolving and includes routines and practices borrowed from people I admire.

I make better decisions. It can be tricky to make the right decision when you’re feeling lost or uncertain about the future. Or when your wants and needs seem to be in conflict with one another. I learned that you can’t make good decisions when you’re in a bad headspace. I also learned that unconscious indecision (aka avoidance) is a decision in and of itself, and usually has a compounding effect on anxiety. Paradoxically, sometimes the right decision is to consciously make no decision, accept the uncertainty of a situation, and trust the right decision will reveal itself in due time. Coaching has helped me develop stronger decision-making skills, but, what’s more, is that it has helped me stay connected to my values and priorities. Once you’re connected to what makes you – and those important to you – happy, it’s easier to find clarity and be confident in your decision.

These are some of the ways in which I have grown through coaching so far, and I expect there to be much more growth as I continue to be coached.

This is why I decided to become a coach.


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